What’s Really Happening with TV Viewing? Response to a Reader Question

I had a very interesting phone conversation with the CEO of a TV network group who is one of Rentrak’s clients. He had read the earlier blogs on the shift in viewing across time and to other platforms which led him to ask me: Is the number of networks, series and telecasts viewed increasing on the other platforms?

In short, does DVR, Video on Demand (VOD) and Over the Top (OTT) usage show increases, not only in the number of hours, but also in the number of series and telecasts watched?[1]

The answer is yes. DVR usage is up in terms of hours, series and telecasts watched. In future blogs, I will look at other platforms.

To get an answer, I did what only Rentrak can do: I looked at over a million homes across four years to find out.[2]

First, it is clear from the chart below that there has been an increase in DVR playback hours, as indicated in earlier blogs, going to 9.5 hours in the week—a shift up of 11 percent.


The change in DVR series watched was also positive, rising to 14.4 series watched in November 2014—a 5 percent increase.


Finally, drilling into the detail of telecasts played back via DVR, we can see an increase of 6 percent to 18.5 telecasts played back during the week.


DVR is increasing across the board.

A couple of caveats here: I only looked at one component of viewing—the DVR. VOD and OTT are not in this blog. They will come, dear reader, they will come!

Second, by controlling for common households across the years and common networks, I under-reported the total increase in DVR viewership since newer, bigger-capacity DVRs such as the Hopper are not included in this analysis, nor is the fact that the viewing household has more viewing choices in 2014 than in 2011.

Third, I only looked at one week of DVR playback. That means I excluded the “long tail” of DVR viewing after seven days. Rentrak tracks up to 28 days of DVR playback.

However, having an “apples-to-apples” approach means that we can truly say the differences in viewing behavior were not due to any changes caused by having different households or networks in the sample.

Bottom line, DVR usage is increasing in key areas of viewing behavior.

I’d love more reader feedback. Any thoughts on how to slice this cake? Either comment below or send me an email at bruce.goerlich@rentrak.com or call me at 212-810-2437.

[1] I had provided a version of this information already to him, but thought that you, dear reader, would be interested as well.

[2] Here are the details for those who find such things “boring.” We looked at common viewers across four years so the data trend was “apples-to-apples.” That is, we used the same Rentrak households who showed up as viewing TV on a DVR in our Rentrak massive and passive footprint for the second week of November in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. That gave me 1.2 million homes. In order to manage the size of the data set, we only looked at one weeks’ worth of viewing, the second week of November, which put the data beyond elections and the World Series. We also only looked at the same common 101 networks, which we reported on in each of those years. Viewership for the purpose of this report was based on at least one minute of viewing to a telecast or a series. Viewing levels are actuals, with no projections applied.

In case you don’t know, I am Bruce Goerlich, Chief Research Officer at Rentrak, the global standard in movie measurement and your TV Everywhere measurement and research company. I have been in the research end of the marketing business for more than 30 years primarily on the ad agency side, with my last stint prior to Rentrak in the role of President, Strategic Resources Zenith Optimedia North America. Somewhere along the way I morphed from young Turk to old fogey. Now that I have grey hair and am horizontally-challenged, I can speak with some authority on advertising and research issues – which I will do from time-to-time on this blog.


2 thoughts on “What’s Really Happening with TV Viewing? Response to a Reader Question

  1. Bruce
    Seems to me you are burying the Led.
    An 11% increase in DVR play back with only a 5% increase in the number of series being watched, says more about the strength of those 14 series than anything else.
    Would be great to get a ranker of the top 10 series being DVRd and played back across the 3 years
    And I know, if I were a client, the information would probably be readily available.
    Do enjoy your blogs.

    Gig Barton

  2. When people talk about the “Golden Age of Television”, they have to be talking about today. Your research shows people are watching more series and more episodes than ever before. Plus the quality of the content has never been better. I am glad Rentrak is providing programmers and agencies more accurate information with advanced demographics for this increased level of viewership. Thanks.

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